The Bigger, the Better ?

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A 65mm film camera used by Quentin Tarantino on his last film proudly lords over the Panavision stand at the Camerimage festival… An anachronistic sight in a world where digital cinematography is taking over… Still waiting for the release of its new wide-format digital camera, Panavision is showing off its long experience in cinematography this year, and of course, its now-legendary range of lenses…

The Woodland Hills firm has invited three cinematographers, each with a different career path and origin (Ellen Kuras, ASC, Markus Förderer & Edu Grau), along with Dan Sasaki (Panavision Hollywood) to demonstrate the qualities of its new range of 70 Lenses in a workshop combining filming techniques and discussions with the audience.
By basing the event on the new Red Weapon 6K camera, the three cinematographers ran a mini-shooting event.
For the occasion, an indoors set was created with two actors, with a night-time lighting mixing cold lighting coming in through a window with much warmer light sources to light the faces. Also present was a garland of lights that allowed for the examination of the quality of the bokeh of each lens.

Reviewing the zoom lenses and the fixed lenses of the new 70 series, the three cinematographers especially insisted on the structural differences in the images produced when the size of the sensor was changed. Indeed, the new Weapon camera was the only one on the market equipped with a large sensor (30.7 x 15.8mm) and can be easily used to study the image produced by a lens designed to cover the 65mm sensor format (54x25mm on the Arri 65).
By successively reducing the part of the sensor in use (5K, Super 35, and then Super 16), the viewers noticed the enormous changes in the image’s perspective and the structure of the background.

This workshop led to the conclusion that it is very important to be able to choose not only the focus length and the aperture with this new family of cameras, but also the size of the sensor used in order to produce completely different effects and narrations. This is of course conditional upon the fact that the lenses cover the maximum possible surface area in order to be able to alternate between scale within the cell.
This is sort of like when we used to change between scenes shot in 16 or in 35 within the same film. But now, we don’t have to change cameras which means the graininess of the image is not profoundly modified. And especially, now, we don’t have the enormous problems related to colour matching we used to have with the silver-process postproduction process…

During the second part of the day, Dan Sasaki, the Hollywood guru of cinema lenses, made a presentation. The day of conferencing suddenly took on a more theoretical bent, as the cameras and spotlights had meanwhile disappeared from the stage of the cultural centre.
Dan explained his point of view on the use of lenses, by comparing anamorphic to spherical formats.
Alternating between clips taken from films like Citizen Kane, Braveheart, Notorious, Star Wars, James Bond, and Inception, he detailed the differing styles and visual patterns regularly used by the best-known cinematographers. Dan Sasaki even provided a six-category classification (parallax, shadow, false perspective, veil of mist, occlusion, and relative movement) that gave his presentation an unexpected taste of Hollywood semiology, interrupted by high-level explanations on the conception and visual identity of these modern lenses.
The many questions asked by students proved the audience’s interest in his presentation.

Written by François Feumont for the AFC, and translated from French by Alex Raiffe.